Last night's Cold Feet got four stars from our reviewer - here's why
Television reunions are risky things. They don’t usually work out. RTE tried it with Bachelors Walk. The BBC tried it with This Life.
Neither should have bothered. Both series were so comprehensively of the moment, so emblematic of their time and place (respectively, mid- to late-90s London and Dublin in the hopeful early years of a new century), you couldn’t imagine either of them working just a few short years on, let alone, as in the case of This Life, a full decade. And they didn’t work.
You can’t help feeling that the cast of Friends have dodged a hail of bullets by stubbornly resisting the clamour to get the old gang back together.
Now it’s ITV’s turn with the revived Cold Feet, “the British Friends”, as someone once unwisely dubbed it, which returned last night for a new six-part series, 13 years after what everyone assumed was the end.
Does it still work? Yes, it does, although in a different, slightly darker way to before.
Creator/writer Mike Bullen’s Manchester-set dramedy had a lot to get through in order to bring us up to speed on what’s been happening to Adam, Pete, Jenny, Karen and David.
Rachel was, of course, missing. The character died during the fifth season and actress Helen Baxendale declined to return as a ghost – although that didn’t stop them using a fleeting shot of her from an old episode to signpost a crucial plot turn.
Consequently, the first half of the opener felt a little rushed as it skittered at breakneck pace through exposition and explanations, broken up with lots of cross-cutting and fast-paced flashbacks.
Adam (James Nesbitt) has never really got over Rachel’s death, but at least he’s got his life back together. Or at least he thinks so. He has a swanky job in Singapore and an even swankier Asian fiancee, 18 years his junior, whose dad is a gazillionaire.
He’s on a flying visit to Manchester to catch up with his friends and also to persuade his teenage son, who’s stuck in an expensive boarding school and hating every minute of it (though he hasn’t told Adam), to come over for the wedding.
The boy hasn’t told him that he’s being bullied and is about to be expelled for smoking dope, either.
Things aren’t going swimmingly for the rest of the old crew. In fact, formerly upwardly mobile couple Jenny and Pete (Fay Ripley and John Thomson) aren’t swimming at all, but drowning.
Pete was laid off and is driving a cab. He’s got a second job as a carer, “wiping old people’s arses”, as he tells Adam. As in the old days, it’s Thomson’s deadpan delivery that often generates the biggest laughs.
Karen (Hermione Norris) and David (Robert Bathurst) are long divorced and he’s now married to a hotshot lawyer who has the warmth of a frozen cadaver and a tongue like a flick knife.
Adam’s friends think he’s mad to be tying the knot with a younger woman he’s known only six months, and put it down to a mid-life crisis.
Naturally, Adam is having none of it – until a brief vision of Rachel’s ghost on an airport travelator literally bowls him over and knocks him out cold, causing him to miss his plane and spend the night in hospital.
That’s when the doubts – the cold feet, if you will – start to kick in.
The warmth and chemistry between the stars is as strong as ever, and Bullen’s script as deft as always. But what really makes Cold Feet worth revisiting is the strand of melancholy running through it.
When we first met these characters (holy crap!) 19 years ago, they were in their 30s and looking forward. Now they’re pushing 50 and either looking back or looking for a way out.
There’s a real sense here of lives having continued without us watching. It’s nice to be watching now.